If you decide to go for a flat one, just head towards Jodrell Bank through the Cheshire lanes. Maybe throw in a climb up Mow Cop at the halfway point before rolling back to the city centre. Then there’s the short but shockingly steep climbs of Pyms Chair and Beeston Brow, or the steady gradient of Long Hill that takes you to the top of the Goyt Valley out of Buxton. The beauty is that within the space of a few miles you can choose whatever type of ride you want.
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I’ve lived in Manchester for about 12 years after coming here to study, and for that whole time I’ve ridden a bike. To start with, it was just about getting to and from work. From there it grew to exploring more in and around the city. I developed a real sense of freedom on the bike, and all my friends that ride still have that genuine love for cycling in the city.
Manchester isn’t the easiest place to navigate by bike, it’s not the most fluid and it can be a little stop-start. But you can ride all the way down Oxford Road, past the University buildings, and travel from the south to the north in a straight line. Because it’s a fairly small city, you soon get to grips with it travelling by bike. A couple of pedal strokes on the right road and you’ve got to where you want to be.
The city’s certainly changed over the years, and it’s become a really relaxed place to live. There’s a ‘get on with it’ side to the Manchester character. People are very down to earth with such a nice nature. Everyone always talks to each other. Even though there’s been a lot of focus on the city due to recent events – about what it means to be from Manchester – I’m really proud that it’s still somewhere that people want to stay and put down roots.
There have been a few times when I’ve considered moving away. I’ve thought about living in Copenhagen and London, but I really like Manchester as a base. I feel a connection with the city. Whenever I travel, I’m always happy to return. If I’m cycling around Manchester and I stop for a brew, people are happy to have a chat. It’s that relaxed manner and the fact people don’t care where you’ve come from or what you do.
Manchester has a very intense road cycling culture. In a relatively small space there’s a lot of different cycling clubs, but they’re all happy to get involved and help each other out with events. If I’m climbing up Brickworks it’s really nice that other riders will make the effort to say hello. There’s a competitive edge to it, they’ll still race you to the top of the hill, but it’s all very good-natured. It’s the Manchester way of doing things, you don’t need to take yourself too seriously.
About three years ago I decided to have a proper go at hill-climbing. I’m originally from Lancashire so I entered the Rake hill-climb, but my time was really slow. The only other entrants I beat were on a tandem. I still loved the sense of competition though, even if you have that horrible feeling at the top like your lungs are burning. From that point I started entering 10 mile time-trials, and did a few road races around an industrial estate in Pimbo where they make Monster Munch.
I’m always looking for the next challenge, asking myself how I can keep getting better. If you’ve got a bike, there are so many different options that are fuelled by competitiveness but still loads of fun.